What If They All Wrote Tell All Books?

Given the revelations detailed in the book by former National Security Advisor John Bolton, I began to wonder: What would we learn if all the high-level members of the Trump administration who were dismissed or resigned wrote books detailing their tenure? But after some research, I discovered that the books would make up an entire library. After all, nearly 300 cabinet-level officials have been fired or abandoned ship since Trump took office.

Allow me to repeat that. Approximately 300 high-level officials have left the Trump administration in just 3-1/2 years! That would be an astounding turnover rate for a McDonalds. Hell, it would be an astonishing rate for sewer workers.

So far, the number of officials who have resigned or have been shown the door includes 3 White House Chiefs of Staff, 8 Deputy Chiefs of Staff, and at least 16 Special Assistants to the President. It also includes 3 Secretaries of State, a Secretary of the Treasury, 2 Secretaries of Energy, 3 Secretaries of Health and Human Services, a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a Secretary of the Interior, 2 Attorneys General, 2 Solicitors General, 2 Directors of the FBI, a Director of the Secret Service, 3 Secretaries of Labor, a Secretary of Education, 4 Secretaries of Veterans Affairs, an Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, and dozens upon dozens of Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Senior Advisors, and other high-ranking officials.

Given the current pandemic, it’s alarming to note that the turnover has also included 2 Directors of the CDC and 3 Commissioners of Food and Drug Administration, as well as untold numbers of scientists.

More alarming still is the fact that 4 Secretaries of Defense, 4 Secretaries of Homeland Security, 3 National Security Advisors, 25 ranking members of the National Security Council, 3 Directors of National Intelligence, a Director of the CIA, 2 Secretaries of the Air Force, 3 Secretaries of the Army, and 2 Secretaries of the Navy have been fired, retired or resigned. (And, of course, Trump’s first National Security Advisor has spent the last several years in jail.)

In addition, 24 Deputy Secretaries of Defense and other high-ranking defense officials have left their posts.

If, as Trump promised, he was only going to hire “the very best people,” you have to wonder about the quality of those who remain. Are they even better than those who left? Or are they merely the only ones who are so morally and ethically compromised that they have chosen to remain loyal to a divisive, cruel, lying, racist, misogynistic, pussy-grabbing, human rights-violating, conman who only obtained office by conspiring to rig our elections with a foreign rival?

A Culture Of Corruption.

Trump used his campaign and his first year in office to line his pockets with donors and taxpayers’ money. His businesses have raked in an estimated $15.1 million since he began his presidential campaign and he continues to use campaign contributions as his personal bank account. And he’s only getting started. But Trump is not the only member of the administration to play fast and loose with taxpayer money.

Trump changes cabinet members more often than he changes wives. Yet despite the record-setting turnover within the administration, to date, only one member of the administration has left the job under pressure for corruption and ethics violations leaving us to wonder: Are members of the administration and Trump’s advisers merely following their leader’s example? Or were they chosen for their positions precisely because of their lack of ethics?

Even those who haven’t been caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar have committed serious lapses in judgment or have seriously damaged the departments they were chosen to lead.

For example, before being fired via a presidential Tweet, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson virtually dismantled the department. The New Yorker magazine described his time in office this way: “His tenure may well be regarded as the most consequential in postwar American history: not for what he built but for what he destroyed. In only ten months, Tillerson, the former C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, has presided over the near-dismantling of America’s diplomatic corps, chasing out hundreds of State Department employees and scaling back the country’s engagement with the world. Most alarming has been the departure of dozens of the foreign service’s most senior officials—men and women who had spent their careers living and working abroad, who speak several languages and who are experts in their fields.”

The person nominated to replace Tillerson, current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, may be no better as he is known to be virulently anti-Muslim and a denier of Russia’s interference in our elections.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin conveniently failed to disclose $100 million of investments prior to his confirmation. And, since taking office, the billionaire has spent millions of taxpayer money for the personal use of government planes, including one for his honeymoon. In addition, he used a government plane to fly his bride to Fort Knox so they might better view the solar eclipse.

Before becoming Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross was known as the “King of Bankruptcy” for plundering companies before forcing their closure. He repeatedly exaggerated his net worth – a lie that fits right in with those of his new boss.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue displayed a penchant for corruption before assuming his current position. While governor of Georgia, 13 complaints were filed against Perdue with the State Ethics Commission, which on two occasions ruled that he had violated state ethics laws. The commission took the unusual step of fining Mr. Perdue while he was governor. Yet before he was done, Perdue pushed through a bill to give himself a $100,000 tax break.

Billionaire Betsy DeVos used her money to push charter schools in her home state of Michigan for more than 20 years. The result is that the state’s schools failed to keep pace with the academic progress of other states. Indeed, Michigan now ranks near the bottom for fourth- and eighth-grade math and fourth-grade reading on a national test. But in Trump’s mind, that somehow qualified her to become Secretary of Education – public education.

Trump’s original choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services was pushed out of office for spending roughly $1 million on charter jets when commercial flights were readily available. He repaid the department just $60,000 for the travel. But Trump adviser Kellyann Conway, who accompanied him on many of the flights, has not paid a dime. And Price’s replacement, Alex Azar, is accused of gaming the patent system for Eli Lilly’s Cialis by promoting its use for male children who suffer from a rare muscle-wasting disease. The product failed to help, but it allowed the patent to be extended for another six months and another billion dollars of profit.

As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson ordered a dining table for his office at a price of $31,000. Worse, he is reversing the department’s efforts to enforce fair housing laws and sidelining those who are aggressively pursuing civil rights cases.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and her family recently donated $40 million to the Harvard Business School to be used for a building that will bear their name. Interestingly, that the money was withdrawn from an account in an off-shore tax haven. That’s right, a long-time government employee, and the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is using an off-shore account to avoid paying taxes!

Not to be outdone, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, treats his job as though he’s either the CEO of a multinational company or royalty. He, too, has spent millions of taxpayers’ money on private charters when he could be flying coach. Worse, he has sold off public lands and national monuments to his friends in the fossil fuel industry. And he’s the one responsible for awarding a $300-million contract to a two-person start-up company in his home state to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid.

Finally, we come to the man who has become the symbol of the administration’s corruption – the Environmental Protection Agency’s Scott Pruitt. So far, Pruitt has demoted and pushed aside senior EPA officials and scientists who raised concerns about his direction for the agency and his spending habits. He took advantage of a sweetheart deal for a Washington condo co-owned by an energy lobbyist. He brought in two friends from Oklahoma as aides and gave them huge raises taken from a budget intended for environmental emergencies. He has a 24-hour security staff of at least 20 people that accompany him even on personal trips, such as a family trip to Disney World. Like other Trump appointees, he also misuses government planes and charter jets. And, when he does fly commercially, he travels first-class on taxpayer money.

Pruitt spent more than $25,000 on a secure, sound-proof phone booth. And it’s alleged that he uses phones other than his own to deal with some EPA matters so the calls won’t show up in his call log. Further, he has avoided the creation of written records of meetings in order to circumvent FOIA laws and to hide his actions.

Given the incompetence and corruption of Trump’s cabinet, we all should be asking ourselves: Is Trump trying to manage the government? Or is he actually trying to destroy it?

Starving The Beast? More Like Drowning It In A Cesspool Of Oil And Right-Wing Ideologies.

For years, the GOP has been intent on starving the federal government of the funds in needs to operate. Unconcerned by large deficits (except when Democrats are in power), Republicans have continued to cut taxes for the wealthy. At the same time, they have happily created loopholes for corporations to evade taxes. By doing so, they are convinced that they will be able to force Democrats to accept draconian cuts to so-called “entitlements” like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

With a Russian lapdog in the Oval Office (Trump apparently thinks he’s too good to live in the White House), majorities in both the House and the Senate, and an unfilled seat on the Supreme Court (thanks to GOP obstruction), Republicans have an opportunity to achieve their goal as never before. One need only look at the list of Trump nominees to see why all Americans, even those who voted to toss a tangerine-colored grenade into Washington, should be concerned for their future.

For example:

Attorney General – Trump’s nominee is Sen. Jeff Sessions, a man who was previously denied a federal judgeship for his racist views; a man who only objected to the KKK when he learned that some members smoke pot; a man who claims the NAACP and ACLU are communist-inspired; a man who thinks the Voting Rights Act is a piece of intrusive legislation; a man who is virulently anti-gay and convinced of the Biblical righteousness of his cause. If confirmed, he will be the person most responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws.

Secretary of Education – The nominee is Betsy DeVos, a billionaire whose school-choice advocacy group has racked up more than $5 million in unpaid election fines. DeVos once described public education as a “closed system, a closed industry, a closed market…a monopoly, a dead end.” She has spent millions trying to persuade states to replace government funding of public schools with a system of vouchers that benefit private and parochial schools. In Michigan, her efforts resulted in an increased number of “free choice” charter schools, most of which have recorded math and reading scores below the state average.

Secretary of Energy (the department that oversees the nation’s nuclear program) – The nominee is former Texas governor, Rick Perry, a slower-witted, less charming version of the governor he succeeded: George W. Bush. Perry has not only proven himself to be an incompetent dancer, he was a largely incompetent governor. More troubling is the fact that, if he is confirmed, he will be in charge of a department that, as a presidential candidate, he vowed to eliminate – that is, when he could remember that it existed…oops.

Secretary of Labor – The nominee is Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurant Holdings, the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. No friend of labor, Puzder opposed minimum wage increases and the Affordable Care Act. (After all, why should a business be expected to offer its employees a living wage and health care benefits?) In addition, his organization has a spotty history when it comes to compliance with labor laws. According to a Bloomberg study, since 2009, roughly 60 percent of Labor Department investigations of Carl’s Jr. restaurants found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act which regulates wages. Indeed, Puzder is more supportive of management than labor.

Secretary of Health and Human Services – The nominee is Rep. Tom Price who has long called for the repeal of Obamacare which would take health care coverage away from more than 20 million Americans. If he is confirmed, the department would more fittingly be known as the Department of Unhealthy and Inhuman Services.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Ben Carson is the former presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon whose home displays a large portrait of the doctor alongside Jesus. However you describe Carson, modest is certainly not one of the terms that comes to mind. Though he grew up in public housing, he seems oddly opposed to affordable housing.

Secretary of Treasury – Steve Mnuchin is a former Goldman Sachs (Remember how Trump derided Clinton’s ties to the company?) banker who has no political or policy experience. Indeed, his views on issues are a complete mystery. About all that’s known about Mnuchin is that he is very wealthy and his bank, OneWest, aggressively foreclosed on homes following the 2008 housing crisis, including the home of a 90-year-old woman who owed the grand sum of 27 cents!

Secretary of Homeland Security – Retired Marine General John Kelly is the nominee to lead the nation’s 3rd-largest government department. He carries a mixed bag of right-wing ideologies and practical beliefs, ranging from maintaining Gitmo and cracking down on the now virtually non-existent illegal immigration across our southern border to supporting human rights and supporting religious freedom of an individual to “…venerate any God he or she pleases.”

Secretary of Defense – Retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis has been chosen to lead the DOD, despite the fact that his nomination flies in the face of the law that requires the position to be filled by a civilian who has been away from the military for at least 7 years (Mattis retired 4 years ago). To be confirmed, Congress will have to grant him an exception. That aside, he may be the most qualified and the most sane of all of Trump’s cabinet picks.

Secretary of State – The nominee, Rex Tillerson, is worrying on several fronts. He is CEO of ExxonMobil, the mega oil company that for decades covered up data linking fossil fuels with global warming. Tillerson also has strong ties to Russia, including strong relationships with Vladimir Putin and Russian military leadership.

Director of the CIA – Rep. Mike Pompeo, an extremist and Benghazi conspiracy theorist with lengthy ties to the Koch brothers in his home state of Kansas. In the words of the NY Times, if confirmed, Pompeo will become “one of the most overtly partisan figures to take over the CIA.” Indeed, he could make Sen. Joe McCarthy proud.

Director of the EPA – Scott Pruitt is the Attorney General of Oklahoma, climate change denier, ally of the fossil fuel industry and long-time detractor of the agency he has been chosen to lead. Indeed, it would seem that Pruitt was chosen to the post with the expectation that he will all but dismantle the agency and the regulations that protect us.

National Security Adviser – Michael Flynn is a retired lieutenant-general who is akin to Richard “The Dick” Cheney on steroids. Flynn’s passion for wild conspiracy theories is highlighted by his tweet suggesting that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex ring in the basement of a Washington, DC pizzeria – a claim that resulted in an armed Trumpster shooting up the place. He believes that Islamic terrorists have been guided across the Mexican border with the help of Arabic-language signs he claims to have seen. And he seems convinced that Democrats have begun to impose Sharia law in Florida and elsewhere. To make matters worse, he is already surrounding himself with a group of like-thinking wingnuts whose only experience seems to be as contributing conspiracy theorists for Fox News Channel.

Chief White House Strategist – Steve Bannon is the former editor of the fake news site, Breitbart News. He is also one of the chief propagandists for the white supremacy movement and the man who has attempted to clean up the image of neo-Nazis by renaming them the alt-right.

One of Trump’s campaign promises was that he would drain the “swamp.” But, upon examining his proposed cabinet choices, it would seem that he is intent on replacing it with an open sewer of bad ideas.

It’s going to be a looooooooooong 4 years!